Aspen traffic issues must move to top of city docket
December 20, 2005
The city of Aspen needs to make Highway 82 and the Entrance to Aspen a top priority in the coming year.Traffic jams have simply gotten out of hand. It took an Aspen Times reporter an hour and a half to ride the bus from Aspen to Snowmass Village a few weeks back, in the dead of offseason. Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses are regularly delayed 30 to 60 minutes leaving town during rush hour. The experience is the same for visitors and locals unlucky enough to end up on Main Street between 4 and 6 p.m.This problem is evident day in and day out, but city officials continue to talk more than they act on the entrance mess. The half-measures adopted last summer and enacted earlier this month are already proving fruitless. Does the city of Aspen really think blocking access to three of the five residential streets that connect with Highway 82 at the S-curves will have a real impact on the traffic mess?Of course it won’t. But our city leaders seem content to live with the current mess, with all of its negative economic and environmental implications, because a plurality of residents don’t like solutions that involve realigning the highway or imagining an alternative to the automobile.The daily backups, which abated only slightly during the fall, make a mockery of the idea that Aspen is somehow more environmentally sensitive than other communities. They dispel any notion visitors might have that a vacation in Aspen is truly a getaway from the daily grind at home – in New York, Los Angeles or any other traffic-choked city.And the future does not bode well. More than 6,600 homes have been approved for construction between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, and a recent study indicates that Basalt’s population may well increase fivefold – to 15,000 – in the near future. Given that Aspen is at the center of the valley’s economy, one has to wonder how everyone is going to get in and out of town.The misery on Main Street that marked the summer of ’05 should serve as a wake-up call to the city of Aspen that it needs to get its transportation house in order – sooner rather than later. The half-measures adopted so far will avail us nothing. City Council needs to begin exploring real solutions and making difficult decisions to create an entrance to Aspen that actually works.